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HPC Minutes

May 1, 2014

The Historic Preservation Commission met on Thursday, May 1st at the City Council Chambers, 305 Gay Street. Brian Roche, Chair, began the meeting at approximately 7:00PM and took a roll call of members attending.

Commissioners Attending: Brian Roche, Will Dennehy, Ron Berman, Patricia Weichmann.

Commissioners Absent: Dormaim Bromwell Green, Mike Russo.

Other representatives or staff attending: Dan Brandewie, City Planner II, Odie Wheeler, Todd Parks, Commissioner Jackie Vickers.

Brian Roche stated that this is a special called meeting combined with a workshop. He asked if there any changes to the agenda and if all items had been properly advertised. Mr. Brandewie confirmed that efforts to notify the public of this meeting included sending the agenda out to interested parties including the media; posting the property, and running a legal advertisement in the paper that should have appeared on Tuesday.

Mr. Roche proceeded to conduct a swearing in of persons wishing to testify.

HPC#46-FY 13-14, 203 Mill St., Otis S. Lloyd and Holly Duncan (co-owners) request to demolish main residential structure due to fire damage and one accessory structure due to dilapidation.

Mr. Brandewie stated that HPC members have received a copy of an application to demolish a residential structure at 203 Mill St.; a copy of the City's Demolition Order and a set of pictures taken staff on April 24th. The fire event occurred on April 16th. In addition there is documentation on the history of the property. He noted that the owners are present and have submitted additional documentation that includes: (1) an inspection report and evaluation on the condition of the property filed by Jim Chaney, contractor, dated April 28th; (2) three estimates for demolition of the structure from area contractors ranging in price from $15,000 to $19,000. Odie Wheeler and Todd Parks from DPW are also present and will discuss the case. He reviewed the excerpt from the book, "Between the Nanticoke and Choptank", page 192 (D-522). This excerpt notes that while the property at 203 Mill Street is listed as circa 1910, its original construction date may go back to 1854. It states that this is the "oldest residence on Mill Street", built by Vernon C. Rea, proprietor of a hotel that once stood on the corner of Gay and Poplar Streets. Staff stated that 1848 and 1877 maps seem to confirm that the house was built between this time period. This house remained in the family until 1906. It appears to have been added on to and modified over time. There are three small accessory structures on the lot, not damaged by fire.

Mr. Odie Wheeler stated that the DPW initially issued a condemnation order shortly after the fire on or about April 17th. This was upgraded to a demolition order on or about April 24th. This was done due to the condition of the structure. The owners have approximately 30 days to comply with this request or appeal the decision. Assuming the HPC approves the request, the City would insist that the structure be removed with the lot regarded and seeded. If this isn't done, the City would levy fines with liens placed on the property. The issue would also be taken to court. If the City has financial resources, the City could act to demolish the property with additional liens levied to the property. HPC members followed up with additional questions to Mr. Wheeler regarding the demolition process.

Holly Duncan, 203 Mill Street, owner testified next. She would love to save the house but it is beyond saving. The damage is too significant and they would never be able to get the odor out. The insurance agent is 2-3 weeks away from preparing any kind of report on the property. She is interested in rebuilding there also. She stated they are not willing to spend money on boarding up the property if it is to be demolished.

Mr. Jim Chaney testified and reviewed his report as to the structural damage of the house and cost estimates to rebuild the structure. He noted that the roof has collapsed, floor joists have been burned, are cracked and sagging; corner posts and studs are burned. He stated that the lack of protection from the weather will further contribute to more deterioration. His cost estimate to rebuild the structure is well over $300,000 and that is a conservative estimate. He said the fire spread quickly in this house due to balloon frame construction which is another factor in rebuilding it. Because it is on piers, new code requirements may require the house to be built on a solid foundation also adding to the cost. Discussion followed about cost estimates, the extent of damage and any potentially salvageable items.

Franke Cooke, 303 Mill Street, testified that as a resident, he would not want to see this structure remaining on site for a long time due to its impacts on the neighborhood. This building, while being identified as an older structure on Mill Street, is not unique, architecturally speaking, as there are other examples of this style home in the historic district.

Mr. Martin Duncan, 203 Mill Street, also testified as to the extent of damage and efforts to salvage materials from the house.

Mr. Brandewie reviewed the pictures taken by staff. Discussion followed about the condition of certain remaining elements on the house. It was noted that the small accessory structure to be removed is adjacent to the one story carriage garage covered in tin. It was used to store wood. Members had no objections to this structure being removed. Hearing no further discussion, the HPC acted to close the discussion.

Mr. Dennehy noted the difference between "fire damaged" and "fire destroyed" and this house appears to fit the latter category. It is significant but nothing is left of the house. Salvaging what remains would be a positive thing. Brian Roche commented that this house is not a prominent house with regard to the street view. Its loss would not create a gaping hole in the streetscape. Rob Berman stated that most of house is gone making this somewhat of an easy decision. Patricia Weischmann noted that the owners appear willing to salvage what they can and the concerns of the neighbors have to be taken into account. If the house were to remain there in its condition, it would have an adverse effect on the neighborhood. It was noted by HPC members that if the owners rebuild the house it would have to be in a style compatible with the HD and that plans would come back to the HPC for review. Questions were asked about fencing and follow-up procedures by DPW staff.

Hearing no further discussion, Mr. Roche requested a motion. Ron Berman moved to approve the request as submitted. HPC members further recommended the motion include a condition that the owners salvage any architecturally significant elements to the extent possible, that a list of those items that were salvaged be provided to DPW staff; and that photographs are taken of these elements and the house before demolition. Second by Will Dennehy. Motion carried 4-0 in favor.

HPC Design Guidelines

Mr. Roche noted that this meeting was also intended to serve as a work session for the Guidelines. Mr. Brandewie passed out a new schedule to complete the guidelines.

Ron Berman raised some concerns with this schedule noting that the list doesn't appear to provide sufficient time for public input before the draft gets sent to MHT and City Council for final action. He also raised concerns about the lack of meeting time available to conduct this review, especially given the fact that June's meeting will be needed for a training session. Discussion followed. Mr. Brandewie stated that an extension has been received by MHT to August 15th for technical assistance on the guidelines. Steve Delsorda and Jane Devlin brought up the need to allow the public to have time to review the material also. Efforts will be made to circulate draft material to the public and to allow for comment on the material before it gets to Council.

HPC members proceeded to a make comments and suggestions to the new draft chapters as circulated by Mr. Will Dennehy.

Meeting adjourned at approximately 9:15PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Daniel L. Brandewie, City Planner II

Signature: ____________________________________ Date: _______________________


Note: These minutes were approved at the meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission meeting on May 15th, 2014.



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